by Tanya Reed

Here's my newest Castle story (bringing the grand total up to two.) I've edited the thing, but I'm still not sure it's what I want it to be. Even so, I can't think how else to improve it, so it's coming out as is. I hope you all like it. There are spoilers for "Sucker Punch", so if you don't want to be spoiled, you might want to wait until after you've seen it. Also, I've written this story as if the events all happened in one day, but I'm not sure if they did. I can't remember. If not, please forgive my fudging the timeline a little. It was unintentional.

Disclaimer: I do not own Castle. All rights belong to ABC.


Rick Castle watched.

He watched as a gun was suddenly turned on him with deadly intent. He watched as Detective Kate Beckett raised her own gun and killed the only hope she had of finding closure. Her aim was true and her face expressionless. Then, he watched as her heart shattered into a million pieces.

The emotion returned as she realized what instinct had made her do. He watched the horror and pain flood her face as she dropped to the floor. Putting her gun aside, she immediately started CPR.

He couldn't see her face anymore. He didn't need to see it to know that the pain was getting worse and worse. He heard the desperation in her voice as her words blurred into sobs. And still she kept trying.

Rick had known she couldn't save him. In fact, the whole precinct knew. They all watched silently, in shared horror, as Kate tried long after anyone else would have given in. Rick felt those eyes on her, felt them as if he were Kate herself. She was such a private person that it hurt him to see so many people staring at her pain. Worse, the sobs that were escaping from her shaking form ripped through his gut. They tore him in places Dick Coonan's bullet never would have reached.

There was blood on her hand. It was red and wet and gave silent evidence of her frantic efforts. He saw it when she lifted the hand to rub her face in the moment that she gave up. He felt her giving up as clearly as he saw the blood.

Rick didn't know what to do. Kate seemed so isolated despite being surrounded by all those people. He had to reach out to her somehow; he couldn't leave her alone with her misery. There had to be a way for him to bridge the gap and offer her a path to comfort.

Carefully, Rick reached out his hand and touched her shoulder. He squeezed it gently, and he felt her wracked body collapse in defeat.

As it did, Rick felt himself moving forward.

"Kate," he said softly, voicing her name for the second time that day.

She didn't resist as he pulled her into his arms. Despite her long, well-muscled form, she felt like a fragile child to him at that moment. He drew her closer into a hug that none of the stares could penetrate. It became only her and him, and he willed as much comfort into her broken body as he could. It was shaking with reaction, and she kept on sobbing as if she would never stop.

"It's going to be okay," he whispered. "You are going to be okay."

He had said these words many times to his daughter when she felt crushed by life. Every time he said them, he knew they would be true some day, and he believed they would be true for Kate as well. He didn't know if he could live with himself if they were not. After all, this was all his fault.

His voice seemed to trigger something in Kate. Her own arms went around him, and she held on.

"Don't worry. I'm here." As he had done so many times with Alexis, he placed his lips gently to Kate's forehead.

She sighed and her sobs started to soften. He continued to hold her and rock until she was quiet in his arms...

Rick awoke abruptly to a feeling of overwhelming sadness. The memory of Kate's sobs reached out to him from his dream. He saw all that had happened clearly in his mind, and it tore at him. Seeing Kate in so much pain was something he never wanted to see again.

It had been both a horrible and a wonderful day. He had believed it to be the last day he would ever see one of the best friends he'd ever had, and it turned out to be the day that Kate Beckett admitted that she enjoyed having him around. It was the day he had seen Kate lost and broken, but it was also the day she had found her mother's killer. Highs and lows mingled, leaving it a day that had been emotionally draining at the very least.

He went over the shooting again in his mind. Mostly, it had happened as his dream presented it. He remembered the feelings that went through him as he watched Kate shoot a man to save his lifeā€”not just any man, but the man who was the link to the reason her mother died. He also remembered the thoughts that raced through his head as he watched Kate desperately try to save Dick Coonan. Even now, his stomach rolled at the intensity of his emotions.

There was one big difference between that dream and reality, though.

With a sigh, Rick got up and threw on his robe. He knew he'd never be able to get back to sleep. It had been hard enough to go to sleep in the first place.

He rubbed his eyes as he headed down the stairs. Even though he swallowed hard, the lump of sadness refused to go away.

He wished he had dared to hug her. In his dream, it had been so easy. In reality, his comforting hand had been all that he had offered until Lanie had come and gently taken her away.

It wasn't that he hadn't wanted to hug her. He always wanted to hug her. It had started the day he first heard about her mother's murder. Something about the pain in her eyes had reached inside of his chest and squeezed. At that moment, he had to force his arms not to reach for her. It was the first time he realized how deeply Kate Beckett could touch him.

Ever since that day, whenever sadness touched the detective's eyes, the desire to hug her returned. Of course, he couldn't follow through. She would never allow it. She always kept him at arm's length, and a hug from him might have felt like a violation. Even today, when she was sharing so much with him after it was all over, he would never have dared to try.

In a way, that longing had started everything. Not being able to hug her had made him search for another way to help her. He had opened Johanna Beckett's file, and everything steamrolled from there. Everything that happened had been all his fault, and he couldn't believe Beckett didn't blame him for it.

He envied his mother. It was so easy for her to give a heartfelt hug. It was honestly given and gratefully accepted. It could never be that way for Rick. He was not allowed to give the hug and simple kiss he longed to. Kate would read too much into it.

He knew he was a touchy feely person. He always had been, and the rest of his family was the same. It was often an effort to remember that Kate Beckett might not welcome a gesture of comfort from him. With this in mind, he had managed to keep his sympathy mostly to himself.

Still, she had accepted the small piece of comfort he had dared to give. His hand had been there, on her shoulder, when she finally gave in to the fact that Dick Coonan was dead, taking his secrets with him. This gave Rick hope that someday she might be ready to accept the support he wanted so much to give.

He sat there in his kitchen, mulling all of this over. He wondered if he should make coffee. After all, it was...he quickly checked the microwave...four in the morning. After a moment of indecision, he got up to make some. After all, it wasn't as if he'd be sleeping anyway.

As it was brewing, he picked up his phone. He stared at it for several moments. His thumb absently ran over the screen. Should he or shouldn't he? After the day she'd had, even if the Captain had insisted on her taking the next day off, she really needed her sleep. Still, Castle highly doubted she was sleeping. And there were different kinds of hugs.

This thought decided him, and he rang her number.

"Hello?" Her voice was clear, with no signs of sleep. "Castle, is that you?"

"Well, good morning, detective."

"Do you know what time it is?"

He smiled slightly. "Were you asleep?"

She paused, then admitted, "No."

"Neither was I. I'm just making some coffee."

"And I'm watching a late night showing of Romancing the Stone on TV."

"Oh, interesting choice of movie. I wouldn't have pegged you for a romantic comedy fan."

She sighed. "Castle, what do you want?"

"Oh, nothing, detective." His smile grew into a grin. "I'm just calling to pull your pigtails."

The end